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Posts Tagged ‘road trip’

America’s Public Libraries

April 17, 2014 | by

A photo essay for National Library Week.

Library built by ex-slaves, Allensworth, CA

Allensworth, California.

Cairo, IL

Cairo, Illinois.

Ocean Park Carnegie branch library, Santa Monica, CA

Santa Monica, California.

Reading Room, Main Library, Philadelphia. PA

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Central Library, Seattle, WA

Seattle, Washington.

Bookmobile librarian, Baker, NV

Baker, Nevada.

Esparanza Moreno branch library, El Paso. TX

El Paso, Texas.

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

Rockaways Queens NY_p45

Queens, New York.

Abandoned library, Sunflower, MS

Sunflower, Mississippi.

There are approximately seventeen thousand public libraries in the United States. Since I began this project in 1994, I have photographed hundreds of libraries in forty-seven states.

I didn’t intend this project to last eighteen years. Many of the early libraries were photographed during longer journeys, when I had the time. The photography was usually connected to some other effort, such as when I taught workshops in Alaska in 1994 and Key West, Florida, in 1997. In 2000 my family and I took a long drive throughout the American West, occasionally photographing libraries along the way. In 2007 we traveled through Louisiana and parts of the South, again photographing a few. Every summer we have stayed in a little cabin in Vermont. I have always brought my camera along on each of those trips and gradually began to accumulate photographs from places other than my home in California. In the late 2000s I began to focus the project. I made specific library photo trips throughout Nevada and to Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Chicago. I began to realize that if I wanted to make this a national study, I had some more traveling to do. Read More »

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Southern Holiday, Part 2

February 28, 2013 | by

A bricked-in tree at Mepkin Gardens.

A bricked-in tree at Mepkin Gardens.

A week before I began my holiday road trip in December, I learned that in 1936 Time Life’s founder and publisher, Henry Luce, and his wife, the flamboyant Clare Booth Luce, purchased a three-thousand-acre former slave plantation in Berkeley County, South Carolina, only twenty miles from the poverty-stricken region where Smith made his classic “Nurse Midwife” for Life in 1951. The Luces made Mepkin Plantation their vacation estate.

Did Smith know this? Is that why he fought so hard to celebrate the African American Maude Callen amid pages of Life’s whitewashed Madison Avenue ads, to shove the contradictions in Luce’s face? It’s hard to know, but I think probably not. Smith left behind voluminous bitter letters to replaceable bureaucrats, but I haven’t seen any to moguls. He tended to make dragons out of windmills.

What is known is that, in 1949, the Luces donated part of Mepkin Plantation to the Trappist Order of Gethsemani of Kentucky, creating Mepkin Abbey. When Henry died, in 1967, his body was laid to rest in the property’s gardens. After Clare’s death in 1987, her body was buried next to his. As a serial graveyard explorer, I knew I had to see these graves, which, together with Callen’s abandoned and crumbling clinic, form an unlikely set of Berkeley County monuments to Life magazine’s midcentury power. Read More »

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Green Car, Nightfall

November 14, 2011 | by

Photograph by Boosbob50.

One day when my father’s car overheated down in Chula Vista, he came home with beans in a can the size of an oil drum. “This is what the real Mexicans eat,” he announced. That sounded suspicious. We ate beans our mom cooked on the stove and supposed real Mexicans did the same. We gathered skeptically as my dad opened the can. “Look at these beans!” he beamed. He was ready to dig in without even heating them up. We stared into the murky depths. Nobody else wanted to try them.

One day as we headed north on Interstate 5, a radiator hose burst right by the big, hollow globe, tilting on its axis in El Toro. Two hippies hitchhiking on the on-ramp kept offering us their ten-gallon bottle of water. “Water won’t do it,” my father said. “It’ll run right through.” There was an Episcopal church there across the street, and the priest took us in for the afternoon. It was 103 degrees that day, but cool in the church. My brothers and I walked up and down the adobe halls for hours. We drank chocolate milk from cartons. The hippies and their dog and their baby and their ten-gallon bottle of water got a ride in a Volkswagen heading for Oregon, but we were there in El Toro till nightfall. I don’t know how my father fixed the car. Read More »

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